From the Crikey grapevine, the latest tips and rumours …

Australia’s fighter squadron a load of hot air. To say that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters our government has paid over $12 billion for have been slow to take off would, perhaps, be an understatement. But even our drastically lowered expectations have been disappointed after a tipster pointed us towards the recent revelation by the US Air Force that the planes — again, we have ordered three squadrons of these — would not work if the fuel tanks were left out in the sun.

In a bid to counter “any possible aircraft shutdowns” the USAF has elected to paint the refuellers a blinding, light-reflecting white, which is not a move likely to make it into The Art of War anytime soon. An air force base in Arizona — notable for being, like much of the Earth, beneath the sun — is in the process of experimenting with other colours that will keep the fuel cool without essentially functioning as a suicide note.

Despite the (constant) setbacks, the Royal Australian Air Force seems optimistic that the three planned squadrons will be ready for action — presumably in scorching conditions such as, say, the Middle East or anywhere in the Pacific — in just over eight years.

“The first F-35 aircraft will arrive in Australia in 2018 and the first squadron, Number 3 Squadron, will be operational in 2021. All 72 aircraft are expected to be fully operational by 2023. The total capital cost of $12.4 billion for this acquisition includes the cost of associated facilities, weapons and training.”

And, presumably, a quick splash of paint to keep the planes from blowing up.

Grow up, you’re wasting precious Bandtwidth. In July we brought you the news that edits made on Wikipedia by IP addresses associated with parliament buildings all over Australia were being tracked by the Twitter account @AussieParlEdits. While we warned pollies and staffers at the time to think twice before contributing to the crowdsourced encyclopedia, it seems that some have not been paying attention. While in recent days Senator Brett Mason’s educational history has been consistently edited by an IP address in the Department of Parliamentary Services, Ms Tips was more interested in an edit made by an IP address connected to the Northern Territory government. In October, someone felt the need to add the words “closet homosexual” to Melbourne MP Adam Bandt’s profile (which was removed quite quickly). Bandt is, of course, engaged to partner Claudia Perkins. It’s worth mentioning that, depending on how the Northern Territory manages its connectivity, the edit could possibly have come from a public library or other institution run by the state government. Whatever the case, if you’re a government staffer and feel the need to edit Wikipedia, we’re watching.

Easy as ABC, Do-Re-Mi. A mysterious muso’s tip to Crikey has struck a sour note with ABC management in claiming that director of radio Michael Mason and Classic FM manager Richard Buckham were being asked to take a bow in a new round of forced resignations before Christmas.

The ABC has dismissed the rumour — which incorrectly alleged that the pair were being struck off after making a series of disparaging comments about Australian composers — as a load of Classical Gas.

“Complete garbage,” a spokesperson told Crikey. “Both Richard and Michael strongly believe in the changes to the network and share the view they will set up a sustainable future for Classic.”

The ABC’s controversial changes — or to use public broadcaster shorthand, “restructuring” — have included halving the number of classical concerts Classic FM records (from 600 a year to 300), while moving its jazz program to Radio National. Jobs are going too – 13, according to Limelight. And earlier this year, Classic FM replaced the overnight All Night Classics program with Classic 2, the station’s new online channel with an Aussie focus that was met with a chilly reception after it was revealed the broadcast wouldn’t be announcing the tracks it was playing or, in fact, have any kind of host.

As for the tip, Ms Tips suspects the whole thing was a bit of a joke that, well, fell flat.

Taylor to Sunday Night? Meanwhile at Aunty, following our piece on the changes at Foreign Correspondent yesterday, a reader got in touch to ask us whether we thought its executive producer Steve Taylor would be off to Sunday Night, the Channel Seven show missing an EP after former EP Mark Llewellyn started a fight with one of his producers. This seems to draw on a mention in the Oz‘s media diary, which said Taylor was the front runner for the role, while other candidates include 60 Minutes producer Gareth Harvey (as canvassed in Tips two weeks ago), Seven’s head of factual programming Dan Meenan and former Today Tonight EP Max Uechtritz.

Crikey asked around yesterday and was told that, at the ABC at least, no one is very surprised to see Taylor considered, as he’s a smart operator with commercial current affairs experience (a key requisite for the role). We’ll be keeping an eye on this and will let readers know if we hear anything more.

And you thought your Christmas party was depressing. While Crikey can’t confirm that Daily Life journos have been squeezing the tears out of discarded Fairfax papers rummaged from Coalition offices, we can definitely imply it heavily. We’re not even going to ask what they put in their water cooler.

Border security laced a bit tight. A tipster who claims that the shoelaces they ordered from the US have been held up due to Australia’s increased border security has taught us a valuable lesson about the cost of surrendering our individual liberties. Said the tipster:

“Anyone who has ordered something from overseas be warned: a pair of coloured shoelaces ordered from USA has been delayed because of Australia tightening its security practices. Anyone saying, if you don’t have anything to hide you have nothing to fear with heightened security is full of shit.”

When asked to explain how exactly a pair of shoelaces could be used to orchestrate the downfall of Western civilisation, though, Customs seemed baffled by the whole affair. A spokesperson told Crikey he could think of no possible reason why shoelaces would pose a risk to national security.

“It’s a bit nonsensical,” he said. “There must be thousands of shoelaces coming across the border every day.”

Everyone’s a critic. Mike Carlton’s impassioned article on the dubious outcome of the PM’s top history award has, as predicted, been met with complaints of sour grapes. Crikey favourite James Jeffrey at the Oz captured the high-minded tone of our nation’s commentariat:

 

*Heard anything that might interest Crikey? Send your tips to [email protected] or use our guaranteed anonymous form

Peter Fray

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